Yesterday I bought a bonsai. I’ve been waiting years to have one–nearly since I have heard of them. My bonsai is not one long cultivated by a master gardener and sold for hundreds of dollars. Mine came in a little porcelain dish from my local Lowe’s store for $22.98. The 20-something woman watering all the plants said she had always wanted one too. The checkout lady admired it thinking it was a gift.
“No,” I said. “It is for me.”
Like the genuine and respectable Enneagram 5 personality type that I am, the Investigator or Analyzer, over time I’ve studied the art of bonsai thoroughly. I’ve checked out books from the library, visited several Japanese gardens, drooled over these intricate shapes at numerous horticultural events and landscape stores. I even took a bonsai class and purchased bonsai pruning shears–but alas–no bonsai for me…until yesterday.
It’s likely my Enneagram 4-wing, the Romantic, that draws me to these little miniature windswept masterpieces–kind of in the way that I am fascinated with Tiny Houses, and have spent many hours watching shows on designing and building them…and yet do not own one.
To me, a bonsai is a metaphor for life– the Master Gardener trimming and twisting, pruning and shaping, bending and supporting–hence strengthening,
makes us into lovely masterpieces.
I’m going through the Ignatian Exercises for a second time in my life. I am doing the longer version and one that follows the Liturgical Calendar. We are headed toward Lent–the time when, like my bonsai, we bend down–to receive ashes and remember that we are dust. We trust Hands to our roots and branches–even in the valley of the shadow of death. We know that we are a beautiful creation with the training eyes and touch of our Master Gardener.
To prepare for the exercises, the book I’m following invited me to pray a prayer by Thomas Merton:
My Lord, God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
(The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life, Kevin O’Brien, SJ, Loyola Press, Chicago, 2011, page 37)
After reading Merton’s prayer, I wrote my own–and my new bonsai reminds me of my prayer during this time of spiritual cultivation and training:
I want to do this for us–
for our relationship to grow.
I feel like a kindergartener*:
I the kinder
You the Teacher;
I the branch
You the Gardener.
I am wild,
and prone to return to the wild
whenever I look away
or leave your training twine.
Touch me, O Gardener.
Apply me to your training espalier.
Help me stay pliable–
not to stiffen up in my “knowing”
but to remain supple;
not to resist your twists
upward and outward.